Gary Horton | Congressman Garcia Slips Us a Mickey

Gary Horton

“Cynical” isn’t a sufficiently complete description of Rep. Mike Garcia’s manipulatively titled, “Prioritizing Troops Over Tax Collectors Act.” Garcia’s publicity stunt bill deserves limitless adjectives of condemnation: 

“Deceptive, delusory, perfidious, shifty, unprincipled, crafty, unethical, insincere, disingenuous, backhanded, treacherous, defrauding, unpatriotic.” Strong words, but upon analysis of the intent of this bill, deservedly so. 

What’s so bad about taking $80 billion from the universally hated IRS and instead pay it to our universally admired troops? Everyone loathes the IRS and most everyone loves our soldiers. This bill was designed to win Most Popular at the Prom. Or, to score cheap points with the crazy coalition currently creeping around Congress. 

What’s so bad about better pay for troops? Absolutely nothing. They are likely underpaid, and they likely deserve more. This is easy to understand, and most folks would agree. That’s what makes Garcia’s “Prioritizing Troops Over Tax Collectors Act” so disingenuous. To gain support for gutting the IRS, Mike plays on heartstrings for troops. Mike implies, “It’s either troops or the IRS. IRS or the troops. Who do you love? You can’t have it both ways.”  

That was easy! Let’s defund the IRS! 

By equating IRS cuts to troop pay increases, Mike cynically abuses soldiers’ well-being to achieve his actual goal: that of defunding and further crippling the IRS.  

Why would Garcia want to further defund an IRS that by all accounts is already financially crippled and constrained? Who would want to see an already dilapidated IRS further decay and disappear from their lives? While perhaps everyone fears the IRS, the answer is obvious: Those who most want to see the IRS impaired are super-rich American oligarchs and large corporations who’ve been skirting full payment of taxes for years and now definitely don’t want to see a restored and effective IRS enforcing the tax code fairly.  

The IRS estimates there’s a $400 billion gap between what is owed and what is collected – every year. This enormous sum is what the federal government spends on education, housing, transportation and nutrition – combined, every year. And this treasure wiggles away, legally owed but uncollected — every year. 

Soon, you’ll be hearing weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth by our new Republican House over our “out-of-control” budget deficit. But here we are, leaving $400,000,000,000 in unpaid tax dollars on the table – every year! And Garcia’s bill ensures this larceny against our America continues. 

Rational people understand that if you need cash, one of the first places you go is to collect any monies you’re owed. You’re already owed it; you just need to collect it. Pretty simple. Collect owed taxes = deficit reduction. 

The IRS is the federal agency charged with administering our nation’s tax code and collecting the funds that pay for shared government. They collect our tax money, which is used for the things we want like our military, education, public safety, our justice system, and all the rest. Their job is to collect the money to fund the things we’ve decided to buy as a nation. 

But it’s estimated that the top 1% in America skips out on $160,000,000,000 in taxes – every year! While most pay fairly, many who’ve been blessed most by America don’t share the sense of fairness to pay their share. 

How do they get away with this continual tax scamming? It’s easy when the IRS doesn’t have sufficient resources or agents to enforce rule of law. Since 2010, IRS funding is down 17%. The agency has lost a quarter of their enforcement staff. Auditing capacity is severely constrained. 

IRS customer service for all taxpayers at all income levels has also collapsed. Last year the IRS received some 73 million taxpayer phone calls. Only 10% of those calls ever reached an IRS employee. Back in 1992, IRS employment was 116,000. Today, it’s only 78,000. No wonder IRS customer service is poor, and there’s little question why big tax scofflaws get away with stiffing America (you and me), year after year. 

It’s the biggest fish that routinely fall off the hook. Auditing giant corporations and the super-rich takes lots of brain and computing power – and the IRS is deficient in both. They simply don’t have the required horsepower and staffing to keep the taxpaying playing field level. Giant tax returns take giant resources to analyze and enforce. Too many slip through cracks and we end up with an annual $400,000,000,000 collection shortfall. 

Solving both the super-rich tax dodge and customer service issues is why Congress appropriated $80 billion to the IRS in last year’s Inflation Reduction Act to modernize technology, improve service, and enforce our tax laws fairly and evenly. 

We can all agree the IRS needs to provide far better service. We can also agree that no one should skate because they can out-lawyer, out-CPA underfunded IRS auditors. The $80 billion IRS appropriation is about equity and fairness and good governance in our society. Garcia’s bill would cancel tax equity, playing on heartstrings to do it. 

It’s that simple. 

Congressman Mike Garcia’s bill uses our troops as a dodge to protect our nation’s richest from fair tax enforcement. Apparently, he doesn’t care if the IRS ever picks up your phone call, either.

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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